Listening to the old broadcast bands for information, sport or adventure isn’t so popular in this U.S. these days, for many reasons. And since I’ve started writing these posts, I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve talked to about DXing who can more than feign an interest in listening to lo-fi audio signals from faraway places. I mean, if you experience your media from cable TV and/or through a speedy multimedia computer with a broadband connection, why should you care about complicated radios that offer sputtering static, strange noises, and people speaking in all sorts of languages you don’t understand?
For better or worse, some of us still have fun with this old technology. While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by so MUCH radio content available today– besides AM & FM, there’s internet and satellite radio and many thousands of podcasts flooding the mediasphere every week. However, there’s a minority out here who continue to listen to radio the hard way and test the capabilities of our receivers. And with shortwave, it’s remains the only way to hear direct communications from distant countries without somehow going through some corporate communication infrastructure. And you throw in the entertainment value of Christian kooks who have infested the U.S. shortwave frequencies, and a few clandestine operators and shortwave pirates lurking about, you’ve got an eclectic, and often exotic, mix of programming to sample that you’d probably never hear any other way. And it’s important to mention that what has become a fringe medium in America, is still a very popular and important way to hear news, information and music in the developing world.
During the cold war, back in the days before the world wide web, there was no way to hear the OTHER side, except on shortwave. Now we have other strange political and economic forces that are again dividing up our world, and creating many “others” who have disagreements with the west, especially the U.S. (For example, the English language programming on Radio Habana Cuba is NOT available on the internet.) If you REALLY want to balance your news and information intake these days, shortwave is STILL a good way to go. And your listening habits will not be logged or noticed by John Poindexter, or any of his friends. Something to think about.
And me? I’m still fooling around with my new receiver, a Degen 1103. I was finally was able to record a couple of decent shortwave dial scans with it. Not fascinating samples of international broadcasting, but viable samples of shortwave reception from the middle of this massive megalopolis. Scroll down for some MP3s from a scan of the 41 meter band from last Friday.
It’s been several months since I’ve had a chance to do some DXing without struggling with the dense radio noise floor of city life. But next weekend I’m going to spend a couple days 100 miles or so north of New York, and I look forward to lots of silence between frequencies and hopefully pulling in some stations I’ve never heard before.
And in this dial scan you’ll hear some of the RF noise you can’t escape on AM and shortwave around here. After a couple weeks of playing with this portable, I can tell you that twirling the tuning knob of the Degen 1103 IS similar to an analog setup. However, as I mentioned in the last post there are some quirky digital artifacts audible as you move through the numbers. And what I’ve also noticed is that some RF noise is just WORSE with this digital receiver. It’s like a nasty buzz or roar coming out of the speaker gets an added jagged digital edge that even grates on MY nerves, and I’m fairly immune to the static, buzzes and crashes inherent in shortwave listening.
All that said, there have been some nights when I’ve had a few minutes to step outside and quickly skip through the bands, and this little Degen just throbs with reception across the dial. It’ll be nice to sit out on that porch upstate and take some time to find out what’s out there.
And lastly, I’d like to solicit some readers of this blog for some audio content. While I’ll continue to post my own radio recordings here, I’d like to have a wider variety to offer. If you have some interesting shortwave or AM DX recordings to share OR have the ability to make some I might be able to use here, please send me an email. Off the top of my head, here’s some of the kinds of radio recordings I’d be very interested in checking out for possible inclusion here:
1. Historic shortwave recordings. Any compelling shortwave radio from the past, especially from the cold war era and before. Strange, historic, or rare recordings would be nice, but not necessary. Please include ID’s of stations or logs if you have them.
2. Interesing shortwave or AM radio (or long wave) recordings from around the country or the world. ID’s or logs would be very helpful. Let me know what you have, or can get.
3. Bandscans. Anybody with a decent receiver who can scan the bands from other parts of the country or the world, it would be great if you could offer a sampling of what can be heard where you are, or have been. I would prefer if you would spend some time on interesting broadcasts you come across, and again logs for these recordings would be ideal. I’d like to get some AM dial scans of the AM dial from other areas of North America especially. It would be nice to get complete journey’s of the dial, from 530 or 540, up toward 1700 kHz. Contact me if you have questions or ideas. Any dial scans from decades ago would be VERY welcome here.
I can’t promise I’ll use anything for sure, but it would be great if you could offer your listening experiences for consideration. Ideally, I’d like it to be in an mp3 format I could snatch from you over the internet, but CD’s or cassettes via snail mail would be fine as well. If I could just get even a few DXers to regularly contribute it would really add a lot to this little funhouse. I’ll certainly credit you if I post your recordings. If you think you might be able to offer something, please DO send me an email.
Meanwhile, here’s a partial scan of the 41 meter band I recorded in Jersey City last Friday just after 7 p.m. (2300 UTC). There is some raw noise from time to time and reception wasn’t fantastic, but there was a variety of international content in between the domestic bible bangers. And here’s what it sounded like…
Segment 1 – 31 Meter Band 05-26-06 16:14
9330 – WBCQ – “The Good Friends Network”
And a big chorus of Caucasian hallelujah to you too!.
9345 – KOL Israel
In Hebrew. "Nel blu dipinto di blu" (Volare) however, is definitely Italian. I’m surprised I don’t hear more English content from Israel.
9355 – (unknown)
I thought this was the Catholics on EWTN, but it doesn’t sound like religious content. Russia broadcasts on this frequency as well. Any DXers or Spanish speakers have a clue on this one?
9370 – WTJC – The Fundamental Broadcasting Network
Oh boy. You hear this kind of thing a lot on Christian shortwave, a dramatization of bible “history.” Typically, these are “news” constructs, with a make-believe correspondent at the crucifixion or something. But this is different. It’s a soap opera (or sitcom) set at the VERY beginning of humanity. And in this clip you’ll hear the first quarrel EVER. I guess that’s what can happen if you ascend to a higher state of existence– You can disagree.
In mainstream monotheistic theology, it’s how we “fell from grace.” Apparently, Adam and Eve could have frolicked forever in happy-go-lucky ignorance, but a certain snake came along and led them to snack on the fruit that imparted them with the weighty knowledge of good and evil. Oops. I guess one way to piss off a power hungry supernatural being is just to get smarter.
The Gnostics, on the other hand, had a completely different interpretation of this story. They saw this act of rebellion against god as the first act of human salvation against a cruel and oppressive creator. And the snake– a GOOD guy. While I don’t personally look for guidance from bible myths and allegories, the Gnostic interpretation of this narrative makes a lot more sense to me.
As I said, these reenactments are popular fodder on religious shortwave stations. I guess these religious dramas make the bible more REAL for believers. And you wondered why the fundamentalists are so frightened by that DaVinci code movie. Fictional entertainment. It’s powerful stuff.
And my god, the AWFUL noise scanning out of this frequency.
9415 – Radio Prague
VERY faint. A song and a lotta noise. Not really listenable.
A slightly anthemic pop song. Female singer. Greek I assume.
9500 – Radio Bulgaria
Extremely faint. Scanned right past it.
9525 – Radio Netherlands
With all the monks and reverb that popey sound in the background, I figured it was EWTN. But, perhaps it’s a documentary feature on Catholics. I don’t know, but I think it’s Dutch.
9535 – Radio Exterior de Espana
Sounds like news, delivered at a rapid pace in Spanish.
9545 – Deutsche Welle
The same as above, in German.
Segment 2 – 31 Meter Band 05-26-06 12:17
9700 – Radio Bulgaria
Commentary in English. A bit muddy and a lot of fading.
9715 – Radiodifusao Portuguesa
Loud and clear. A cheery pop number. Sounds like the 1980’s. A funky little toe-tapper with complimentary shortwave phasing effects.
9725 – Gene Scott
Mr. Scott bragging about his huge broadcasting presence. This particular broadcast is coming from Costa Rica, by the way.
Although Gene Scott no longer walks the Earth, he seems to have found immortality on shortwave. As long as the money keeps coming in.
Ouch! The NOISE after moving past this frequency is nasty.
9840 – WHRI (World Harvest Radio) – Radio Liberty
Old Stanley Montieth. Barely readable.
9855 – Radio Kuwait
A drama of some kind, in Arabic. I wonder if snakes are involved?
The beginning of the Friday English language program from Lithuania. This is old fashioned international broadcasting. Quite listenable, with a little throbbing as the radio waves bounce over the Atlantic. In general, countries that used be part of the eastern bloc are more likely to maintain an English language service to North America than the rest of Europe.
The news focuses on an ongoing Lithuanian corruption scandal. I guess we have more in common with the E.U. than I thought.
9895 – Radio Netherlands
9925 – Hrvatska Radio
9975 – EWTN
Everything you need to become a do-it-yourself Catholic apologist by simply utilizing your internet browser. A very slick promo.
9985 – WYFR (Family Radio)
Just a few seconds of Protestant profundity, prophets and persecution. It’s palpable.
That’s it for now. Ane to those of you who have linked to this site, I thank you. I really appreciate it.
As usual, thanks for listening.
(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)